I went to one of the most magical places on earth this past weekend - and now, I'm not talking about Disney World. I (oh hey, it's Shannen) went to a hospital.
What? How is a hospital magical? How is it happy?
Well, I went to THE hospital: St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. If you listen to FM106.1 on a regular basis, you know that we do a radio-a-thon every year raising money for St. Jude and the kids who are treated there. This past weekend was a conference that gives radio people a look inside the hospital, the ins-and-outs of where donors money are going and the stories of the amazing kiddos at St. Jude.
Talk about an overwhelming experience. Hundreds of radio people (on-air staff, sellers, marketers, etc...) all gathering for one mission: finding cures and saving children. We sat through seminars, toured the hospital and got to see some pretty cool things.
Let me start with the glamorous part.
When you walk into the conference the first day, you're surrounded by up-and-coming country artists who are there to learn about St. Jude and the wonders that it does. This year, everyone from Adam Doleac to Gabby Barrett to King Calaway and more attended. Pretty cool, right? You're seeing these soon-to-be country stars invested in the greater good.
Each night, St. Jude hosted a dinner with a theme. Friday night was the "Roaring Twenties" dinner where everyone dressed up in their best flapper ensembles. Aside from the super fun activities and stellar food that was offered, Lady Antebellum showed up and was recognized for being amazing contributors to St. Jude. They even played a few songs.
Pretty cool, right? Not the best part of the weekend.
Saturday night was the "songwriters" night which is basically a guitar-pull. We have a great dinner, and then Randy Owen, Brad Paisley and Brett Young all put on a little concert and indulge us with a few of their hits. It was kind of like I had my own "Class of" event while I was in Memphis! The best part of the night was when Brad Paisley brought out Miss Addie Pratt - a St. Jude Patient - who sang with him on his special last month. She sang "Alive Right Now" with Brad like she did that night, and oh MY! She has a gorgeous voice! She carried herself with grace and confidence which doesn't surprise me because if you've beat cancer - what's a little performance in front of hundreds of people?
Amazing night - still not the best part of the weekend.
If you've made it this far, you're probably wondering - what was the best part of the weekend, Shan? Cut to the chase because you got to experience all of these incredibly talented country musicians within a hand's reach.
The best part of the weekend was simply learning about the power of St. Jude and the effect it has on its patients.
I sat through days of seminars, toured the hospital and heard stories from the patients. Every single day encompassed one thing: hope.
Let me give you an example of the power of St. Jude. You've heard the facts from our radio-a-thons: Families never have to pay bills. Think about that for a second because that statement never really hit me until Caleb, a former St. Jude patient, stood up on stage and told us that he came to St. Jude from the Bahamas after his mom was told by other hospitals that she would need to pay $300,000 before they could start any treatment on her son who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. St. Jude patients with ALL have a 94% survival rate which is the best worldwide outcomes for that disease. Caleb is now in college and interning for ALSAC - which is the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude. He's looking forward to pursuing a career with St. Jude.
Here's another story: Hillary was also a St. Jude patient who was fighting two unrelated types of cancer: Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. St. Jude helped her fight her battle after relapsing, and Hillary was so determined to recover and live a normal life that while she was recovering from a bone marrow transplant, she walked the length of a marathon (26.2 miles) in the hospital. Hillary's now 26 years-old working on her PhD in BioMed and engaged.
Those are just two success stories that happened thanks to the the doctors, researchers and DONORS at St. Jude.
I could go on and on about the things I heard this past weekend, but I really wanted to highlight what I finally realize: every little bit counts. It costs $2.8 million to open the doors of the hospital every day, and St. Jude thrives on the donors who contribute to the hospital because the parents should only worry about helping their child get better.
There's so much more that I could get into, but I wouldn't be able to do it justice. It was so inspiring to hear the stories of the patients at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital go on after treatment and work towards careers at St. Jude or even stories of those we lost in their battle whose lasting words included the fact that they wanted to donate their bodies for research or wanted their parents to be instrumental in fundraising for St. Jude.
You can see some of the pictures from my trip below, but I highly encourage you to watch the video to get a better taste of what St. Jude is all about. And, of course, you can click to donate here.